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Al-Qaeda seizes southern Yemeni town of Ahwar Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Al-Qaeda seizes southern Yemeni town of Ahwar

File Photo:Al-Qaeda has controlled several neighbourhoods of Ahwar for weeks [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 February, 2016

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Al-Qaeda militants have captured the Yemeni town of Ahwar, hours before a US drone targeted the militant group in a neighbouring province.

Dozens of al-Qaeda militants took control of the southern Yemeni town of Ahwar on Saturday, consolidating the group's control over much of the region.

The militants killed three pro-government fighters on Saturday as they launched an attack at dawn on a checkpoint manned by fighters loyal to the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

They captured three of them before slitting their throats and going on to seize several government buildings.

Al-Qaeda militants have controlled several neighbourhoods of the town in Abyan province for several weeks.

Also on Saturday, a US drone attack killed several suspected al-Qaeda members in the neighbouring Shabwa province.

The drone targeted a pick-up truck in the al-Aqla district hours after the militants took control of Ahwar, local sources told The New Arab.

The Sunni Muslim extremist group has shored up its presence in Abyan where it already controls the provincial capital Zinjibar and the towns of Jaar and Shaqra.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], a Sunni Muslim group that claims to be subordinate to the main global militant organisation, has expanded during Yemen's civil war.

Their advance gives them control of most of the coast from their south-eastern stronghold of Mukalla to Zinjibar, not far from the main southern port city of Aden.

Hadi's internationally recognised government declared Aden the country's provisional capital in March, after the Houthi rebels drove it out of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen.

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have stepped up attacks on Aden despite the government's efforts to secure the city.

A Yemeni university recently announced the resumption of studies after months of suspension amid claims that al-Qaeda pressured it to reopen.

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